BERN • China's economy will remain stable and keep growing steadily while resisting protectionism, President Xi Jinping told Swiss executives yesterday during a state visit to Switzerland.
"We are confident that we will keep our economy stable," Mr Xi said, adding that there were headwinds facing the global economy, which is still weak.
"Overall, China's economy is performing steadily. In 2016, last year, GDP is expected to grow by 6.7 per cent on a year-on-year basis, and that means we missed our set target. But that expectation, according to some international institutions, will be among the highest among major economies."
He also noted that "protectionism, populism and deglobalisation are on the rise".
"It is not good for closer economic cooperation globally," he said.
The International Monetary Fund yesterday upgraded its growth forecast for China this year to 6.5 per cent, 0.3 percentage point higher than in October, on the back of expectations for continued government stimulus.
Mr Xi, who will deliver a keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos today, said China's economy was entering a "new normal" of slower growth, and Swiss companies could help it improve quality and become more efficient, equitable and sustainable.
"The restructuring of China's economy and the upgrading of our industries will generate huge new demand," Mr Xi said.
"In terms of intellectual manufacturing, finance, insurance, energy conservation, environmental protection, energy generation, electricity, food and medicine, Switzerland has advanced technology and... expertise, and could be a new partner for innovation for China."
China owed its economic development to opening up, and Switzerland and China would work together to reject all forms of protectionism, he said.
"We will expand the openness of our service sector and general manufacturing industry to provide more investment opportunities for foreign businesses," said Mr Xi.
China has become Swiss engineering company ABB's second-biggest single market, behind only the United States. This is amid demand for high-voltage transmission equipment for China's burgeoning power grid as well as for factory robots for the car industry.
Swiss elevator maker Schindler has designs on rivalling bigger companies - such as Finnish firm Kone and Otis, a unit of US-based United Technologies - in China, where it has made acquisitions and expanded manufacturing facilities. China is the world's biggest elevator market, accounting for about 60 per cent of all new equipment orders.
Swiss drug and chemical makers are also fanning out in China. Novartis just completed a US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) research campus in Shanghai, while Clariant is pinning its hopes on rising Chinese consumer demand for products.
Meanwhile, China's state-owned China Construction Bank got its Swiss banking licence in 2015 and signed a renminbi clearing agreement with Swiss-based Zuercher Kantonalbank last September.